WASHINGTON – Former world No. 4 Kei Nishikori advanced to the third round of the Citi Open on Wednesday following a straight-sets win over American qualifier Donald Young.
After receiving a first-round bye, the seventh-seeded Nishikori, one of four past champions in the men’s field, slammed eight aces while converting three of five break points to take down Young 6-3, 6-4 at Rock Creek Park Tennis Center.
The 28-year-old, currently ranked 20th, remains undefeated in seven matchups with the No. 234 Young.
“It’s been a while since I played on a hard court and I was nervous, but I played good tennis from the beginning and I was able to focus until the end,” said Nishikori.
“I had more service aces than I normally do and I’m happy about that,” he said.
Nishikori is making his fifth appearance at the hardcourt Citi Open — one of 13 ATP World Tour 500 series tournaments in the season — since he crashed out in the third round of his 2013 debut.
He defeated American John Isner in 2015 to claim the championship, but did not participate the following year. He made a semifinal exit last year.
On Thursday, Nishikori will face No. 26 Denis Shapovalov. The 19-year-old Canadian handed a first-round loss to Nishikori at the Mexican Open earlier this year in their only other meeting to date.
Andy Murray is showing signs of returning to his old form, right down to the return winner he delivered on the last point of his first victory over a top-20 player in more than a year.
Murray took a more aggressive approach as he works his way back from hip surgery and moved into the third round by beating No. 4 seed Kyle Edmund 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 6-4.
Murray is a three-time major champion and former No. 1 who was sidelined for 11 months because of his right hip. He missed the second half of 2017, had an operation in January, then returned to the tour briefly in June.
One of his three matches that month was a loss on a grass court to Edmund, the Australian Open semifinalist who has supplanted Murray as Britain’s highest-ranked man.
When they played last time, Murray, said, “Any time Kyle was dictating the points, I wasn’t tracking enough balls down. I felt a bit slow to the balls. Today, I was able to defend and dig up a few more shots and that made a big difference.”
There is still work to be done by Murray, of course. He is ranked 832nd, has played only five matches in 12 months, and needed three sets for each of his victories here.
Unlike in his opening match Monday, when he felt he was too defensive, Murray made a point of attacking more against Edmund.
“Regardless of the result, we wanted to at least be dictating more points, trying to use my forehand, be close to the baseline,” he said. “And I think I did that, especially in some of the important moments in the third set.”
Also moving into the third round was No. 1 seed and defending champion Alexander Zverev, and his next matchup is a rare one: On Thursday, he’ll face his older brother, No. 15 seed Mischa. It’s their first meeting in an ATP main-draw match.
“It’s a special day, because not a lot of families can say two brothers played against each other on a such a high level, in one of the biggest tournaments in the world,” said Alexander, who finished off a rain-interrupted 6-2, 6-1 win against Malek Jaziri. “Obviously, we both want to win. We won’t give each other anything.”
Seeded players exiting the draw included No. 5 Nick Kyrgios, who withdrew with a hip injury, along with No. 12 Karen Khachanov and No. 14 Jeremy Chardy, who both lost.
In the women’s field, reigning U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens continued her tendency for all-or-nothing showings at tournaments, losing 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the second round to 91st-ranked Andrea Petkovic.
Stephens was seeded No. 2 at a tournament she won in 2015 for her first WTA title.
Time clock embraced
New serve and warm-up clocks that debuted in ATP and WTA main draws this week received generally good reviews from players, although hurried warm-ups cut into music time for some.
The serve clock gives players 25 seconds to begin their service motion from the time the chair umpire announces the score.
The warm-up clock allows one minute from on-court arrival to get to the net, five minutes for warming up and another minute to get ready to play.
“It’s a positive change for tennis,” Murray said. “It’s one of those things in tennis that’s so stupid. How are you supposed to count 25 seconds in your head?”
While umpires have some discretion, the clock assures players and umpires are on the same wavelength when it comes to measuring the gap, with ball bouncing and gestures not counted as starting a serve motion.
For Naomi Osaka it was about the one-minute countdown from walking out to getting to the net for the coin toss.
For players accustomed to a more leisurely pace in their teen years, it’s tough to take off the headphones and leave their music behind.
Osaka, ranked 17th, was listening to Kendrick Lamar ahead of her opener when she realized she needed to get moving.
“The most panicky thing for me is the minute you have to get to the net for the coin toss. It cut into my music,” Osaka said.